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decided in high school to major in history in college and then write
historical novels, I promptly got recruited into R.O.T.C.
instead, and from there into the Army as a military intelligence
officer. Many years, a divorce, side trips into teaching,
calligraphy, Pony Club, riding instruction, and marketing later
(and jobs at five financially strapped companies in a row), I finally
accepted two things about life: that writing thing of mine is just not
going away, and a day job is probably just about as secure. So now I
write full-time, in between keeping up 20 acres, 3 horses, 4 cats, and
a dog in Washington State. But
what happened to the historical novels, you ask? Read on . . .
how come it's taken so long to get serious about publishing what I
write? Umm... well, I like to write. I never felt a stunning urge to get
into print because for many years I was having so much fun writing. And
then, of course, there's the rejection factor.
dipped a toe in a few times in the mid '80s, little did I know that
those very kind rejection letters were--unusual--to say the least.
Senior editors just don't usually take time to write two-page letters
telling you that three
readers had recommended your book for the list but she had to turn it
down because of a, b, and c that she found wrong with it. And I, being
oh so stupid back in those days, slunk off into the night instead of
instantly revising the thing and shooting it back by return post. Not
having yet grown the requisite rhino hide every writer needs to succeed,
I allowed the rejections to suck. Dwelt on their suckiness. Told myself
I was no-talent reject. Went back to writing because it was more fun
than sending it out. The upside was that I ended up with many finished
novels in the drawer, learned to write, and acquired some life
experiences like divorce, cancer, poverty, death, corporate craziness, and the
joys of running a horse ranch by myself, all things that have added
depth to my writing. But oh, yes, rejections still sucked.
did hit the jackpot with some non-fiction sales to major markets in the
early '90s. That was worth a scream of joy or two. Then life took a
U-turn that left me too busy and too exhausted to do much more
than write every evening to get my mind off it. At that point,
more rejection was the last thing I needed. Then
along came 1997 and I acquired a computer capable of hitting the
Internet. Talk about revelation. In short order I joined some writers'
workshops, discovered that most of the members had never, ever gotten a
personal note from an editor, let alone nearly gotten a book into print
twice (sans agent), and that a rather large percentage of them wrote at what might kindly be
described as a first-grade level. Newly fortified with confidence (some
might say arrogance) that
at least I could string words together in a pleasing fashion, I started
sending stuff out again.
got rejected again. More times, because I sent more stuff out. Now, I
could either blame this on the fact that the computer age has made it
much, much easier to slap words onto paper and make mountains of slush
in publishing offices, thereby reducing the ability of editors to
recognize brilliance, or I could take some of the (sometimes) really
hurtful advice I got from fellow writers and take another look at my
babies. I went back and polished and honed and revised and whacked pet
paragraphs and worked hard at growing rhino hide. And sent out some more
stuff. And lo and behold, somebody actually bought a story. Oh, happy
day! I was not total snail spit; I was a published fantasy writer.
that mean that my work instantly became acceptable to every other editor
on the planet? Oh, how I wish. But it was a beginning, and because that
first market was well-respected, it gave me something to cling to
through more rounds of rejection. And guess what? More stories sold,
because all the while, I worked on honing
the old junk in the drawer, and accepted every writing challenge I could
get to produce new work. You have to keep moving ahead in order to truly
"be a writer." I plan on moving ahead until that unhappy day
when the stories stop showing up for lunch with my muse, may it never
come. And I will continue to keep writing--and sending stuff out,
however much it hurts. Because even though with every sale it gets a
little easier to attract an editor's attention, rejections still suck.
can either make your writing career about the rejections--or about the
successes. Sometimes you've gotta kiss a lot of frogs to get the prince.
About those historical novels. I did major in history (summa cum
laude, no less). But history is just so much more interesting
from certain, eh, perspectives. I decided that rather than
risk accidentally changing the entire space-time continuum by
putting words in the mouths of real people, however dead, I'd
apply all those college credits to making up my own worlds.
Little did I know how much harder that really is! And so much
fun. I hope you enjoy reading them when they finally hit the
bookshelves as much as I did writing them.